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treat. this is "nightline," december 24th, 2012. good evening i'm juju chang. we ask do you believe in heaven? about 80% of americans do. but a harvard trained brain surgery wasn't so sure until he spent a week in a coma and came out with a description of the afterlife. here is terry moran with this encore presentation. eben and holley alexander are at a high school soccer game cheering on their high school son bond. they are an american family with an extraordinary story. they have been touched by a medical miracle and maybe more. >> it was impossible after
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impossible after impossible. >> reporter: eben alexander survived a near-death experience and now carries the memory of what he says was a journey to heaven, a journey that all his scientific training can not explain. on november 10th, 2008, eben awoke with a searing headache. when holley checked on him he was having a tremendous seizure. >> i said say something and he didn't say anything. zblbt eben was rushed to the hospital where he was a neurosurgery. >> all we could make out was help and screaming. >> reporter: he had been stricken with a rare and virulent ecloy meningitis infection. >> i was trying to die. >> reporter: doctors gave him almost no chance to live and told his family if he did survive he would be brain damaged if rest of his life.
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>> his eye was off and cocked. it was like no one was there. >> reporter: eben believes that holley was right. he wasn't there. >> did you go to heaven? >> yes. i mean, in every sense of the word, that's what my experience showed me. >> reporter: his first recollection was being a speck of awareness in a dark and murky underworld. >> i was rescued by this beautiful spinning white light that had a melody, inde scribably beautiful melody that opened up into a bright valley. just an incredible, rich, ultra real world of indescribable complexity. >> reporter: god was there he says and he soared on the wing of a butterfly with a beautiful young woman as his companion and the young woman gave him a message to take back from
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heaven. >> you are loved. you are cherished. there is nothing you have to fear. there is nothing you can do wrong. >> reporter: it's a beautiful vision. but heaven? >> a lot of people are going to say, doctor, it was a hallucination. your brain was zapped by this disease. all the wires got crossed and you saw a girl on a butterfly wing and spinning up in a melody. >> i know this was not a hallucination, not a dream, not what we call a con fablation. i know it really occurred and it occurred outside of my brain. >> reporter: but how? how can he even suggest that much lest complain claim that his experience is proof of heaven as he has called his new book. he showed us his brain scan. >> it was no it leaving any part of my cortex unaffected. >> reporter: so your conclusion is because all of this outer area which is the higher
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functioning was covered with the infection, what you experienced in the coma wasn't part of the brain? >> right. >> reporter: many neuroscientists are kept couple arguing that his brain must have produced his visions somehow, most likely as he came out of coma. but something else happened. after he recovered, eben, who was adopted saw a picture of a sister from his biological family who died years ago, a woman he never knew. >> and i knew who my guardian angel was on the butterfly wing. it was the most profound experience i've ever had in this life. >> your sister by birth and from a family that you didn't know because you were adopted who died several years ago, who you had never met, you saw while you were in coma? >> yes. and that was the key.
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that explained everything. >> reporter: dinner time at the alexander home. they were not a particularly religious family before eben's coma. he was a skeptic. not any more. >> this proves that our soul, our consciousness, our spirit, doesn't depend on the existence of the brain and body at all. and easily, is actually freed up to a much higher state of knowing when it's freed from this body. >> thanks to terry moran. just ahead for us it wouldn't be christmas without reruns of "a christmas story" we catch up with the kid who nearly shot his eye out. >> abc news "nightline" brought to you by the lincoln motor company.
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reruns of "a christmas story" we
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"nightline" continues from new york city with juju chang. >> well let's see there's the profanity spewing father and his nemesis the basement furnace. there's the younger brother and the school bully and at the center of it all it's ralphie, the boy who want asbe bee gun and the story that has become a hit broadway show. today ralphie is all groan up. and here is abc's neal karlinsky with another look. >> reporter: whether you celebrate christmas or not there are as few movies as celebrates in the holidays as this one. >> what do you want for christmas little boy? >> reporter: "a christmas story" is the eggnog of cinema. >> you will shoot your eye out
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kid. ho-ho-ho. >> reporter: most know him as ralphie, the boy with big eyes and wide expression forever linked to the role of a kid who wants nothing more than a beebe gun for christmas. >> did you want a beebe gun or not so much? >> i had a beebe gun before that. >> reporter: today ralphie is all grown up. he is peter billingsley. >> are you surprised that people still recognize you and come up to you for that role? i watched someone out front come up to you. >> i look somewhat the same. >> reporter: the kid who almost shot his eye out first was messy marvin in a series of wildly popular hershey's chocolate syrup ads. but over the years he moved behind the camera, from "couple's retreat" to "the
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breakup" he is a successful hollywood producer and director. but after all this time he has never spoken in detail about the childhood role that followed him his whole life until now. >> the glasses were for real. i still wear contacts and need reading glasses. >> reporter: he agreed to speak with "nightline" at the opening of the musical he hopes to take all the way to broadway. yes, leg lamp and all, "a christmas story." >> no, no. i want -- air rifle. >> lends itself to song and dance. if you can imagine the idea of a leg lamp kick line. >> reporter: the play wouldn't exist if the movie was not embedded in american culture. at the time, no one wanted to make the movie.
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>> no one believed in it back then? >> no. it was a kid wants a beebe gun. not the most sinmatic pitch in the world, set in the depression. i don't think anybody expected it to turn out to be what it was. the film makers believed in it. >> reporter: the director had to agree to make a horror movie for the studio to get it green lighted. another revelation, the flag pole scene. >> stick my tongue to the pole is dumb. >> reporter: as a child actor on that film i would think i would be tempted to put my tongue to the flag pole. did you do it? >> fortunately prior to that i hadn't and that movie as a person to never do that that's true. >> that was a fake pole. and they had a tiny hole in it
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that was sucking air in it. >> i can't put my arms out. . >> put your arms down when you get to school. >> reporter: the kid who plays your brother he sounded so realistic. you said they were probably real tears. >> that suit was hot and that slide was scary to go down. >> reporter: on stage the new ralphie isn't blond but clark has the look down. >> it's my scared face like -- >> reporter: and boy, can he sing. >> ♪ ralphie to the rescue >> reporter: on the opening night of the performance, seattle's fifth avenue theater crowded with adults. >> i have loved this movie for eons, decades. >> before the curtain opened it said "a christmas story" and it
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is the same music. boy, this has come a long way since i was 12 years old. >> reporter: without "a christmas story" the world may never know the joys of a leg lamp and kids might be sticking their tongues to flag poles. >> thanks, neal. next up for us we take a bite out of a british tradition that sounds absolutely disgusting. (all) the gulf! it doesn't matter which of our great states folks visit. mississippi, alabama, louisiana or florida, they're gonna love it. shaul, your alabama hospitality is incredible. thanks, karen. love your mississippi outdoors. i vote for your florida beaches, dawn. bill, this louisiana seafood is delicious. we're having such a great year on the gulf, we've decided to put aside our rivalry.
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now is the perfect time to visit anyone of our states. the beaches and waters couldn't be more beautiful. take a boat ride, go fishing or just lay in the sun. we've got coastline to explore and wildlife to photograph. and there's world class dining with our world famous seafood. so for a great vacation this year, come to the gulf. its all fabulous but i give florida the edge. right after mississippi. you mean alabama. say louisiana or there's no dessert. this invitation is brought to you by bp and all of us who call the gulf home.
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well it's christmas eve and there is always the slight fear of that dreaded gift of fruitcake tomorrow. but when it comes to holiday food as a punch line we have nothing on our friends across the pond where the english enjoy a bizarre pudding complete with cow giblets. >> and now the pudding. >> reporter: the christmas pudding has been a fixture on british tables for centuries even before "a christmas carole". >> it looks like the best you've ever made. >> reporter: christmas putting
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is a sloppy, booze-fuelled fruitcake. >> a hell of a lot of booze. >> with fat from a cow's kidneys thrown in. >> this is what makes it an incredible delicacy. >> reporter: you mix it up weeks or months in advance. >> we keep our pudding for a year or two years and they are wonderful puttyings. they are more interesting. >> reporter: christmas morning the christmas sweats in what looks like old underpants and brits can't get enough. and at the suppliers to the queen they fly off the shelves at 60 bucks a pop. but there is not much of an export market. >> other nationalities don't really get this. >> yeah. >> reporter: brits have invented and exported the television, soccer, the jet engine, the
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world wide web and english. but no one seems to hike our christmas pudding. >> but i know what most people who don't come from britain think of it is immensely heavy and indie jestable, a cannon ball. >> reporter: americans suspicion can be traced back to the settlers. >> christmas pudding was banned by the settlers. >> alcohol, fruit, almonds and steaming as much as possible. >> reporter: that's the "nightline" producer in london. he makes his own pudding, an adaptation of the babylonian lady's recipe. >> that is christmas. but we both grew up here and have been eating it since we were kids. do you have to grow up with it to like it? can you acquire a taste? we're going to find some
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foreigners and force them to eat it. we had some language issues. >> christmas pudding? >> reporter: and fabricated excuses. >> you're allergic? >> reporter: but every foreigner who tried it -- >> it's really good. >> good, good. >> thank you very much. >> reporter: they loved it. and the ultimate test, americans. >> it's much better than fruitcake. >> it's good. >> it's good. >> could use more cinnamon. >> reporter: add cinnamon, do whatever you like to it. just try it. >> no reason you shouldn't eat pudding. >> until you have eaten a steamed british pudding you haven't lived. >> reporter: we fry the leftover pudding the next day in a pan with brandy butter. it doesn't get much more unhealthy and doesn't get much better. i'm nick watt for "nightline" in london.
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>> nick, the tourists were just being polite. thanks to you, though. thank you for watching abc news, good morning america will be with you in the morning. we leave you tonight with a look at the important people who have brought "nightline" to you over the past year. we hope you have a happy holiday and will see you here tomorrow. the past year.
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up next on "jimmy kimmel live" samuel l. jackson. >> i think you are known for cursing more than anyone else. >> why is that? >> because you curse all the time. >> the cast of "jersey shore" and this year in unnecessary sensorship. >> i p

ABC December 24, 2012 11:35pm-12:00am PST

News/Business. Cynthia McFadden, Terry Moran, Bill Weir. (2012) New. (CC)

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